June 7, 2023

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A giant comet will make its closest approach to Earth next week

A giant comet will make its closest approach to Earth next week

One of the most distant active comets is approaching Earth next week and you can see it live…and of course, it’s huge.

Comet C/2017 K2 (PANSTARRS), or K2 for short, was first discovered by Hubble in 2017 and is the most distant active comet ever discovered in the outer Solar System. That record was broken earlier this year by the giant Comet Bernardinelli-Bernstein, but Comet K2 has been steadily heading our way for the past five years. As it continues its path through the inner solar system, it is now scheduled to come within 270 million kilometers of Earth on July 14.

The extent of the comet’s ice is not known for certain, but current estimates suggest that it ranges from 18 to 160 kilometers. In both cases the comet is large – but its nucleus is at the high end of the range, making it one of the largest comets ever known, along with the Bernardinelli-Bernstein and Hell-Pop comets. Its close orbit next to Earth will help astronomers narrow this margin.

Comet K2’s tail, on the other hand, is definitely huge. Again, estimates vary, but we estimate its length to be between 130,000 and 800,000 km.

As it gets closer to Earth, it is expected to be very bright, but it may still be too faint to see with the naked eye, but you won’t have a problem with a telescope and you’ll be looking at the rest. of summer.

If you don’t have a telescope of your own, you can watch it oscillate with the help of a live virtual telescope program starting at 6.15pm ET (10:15pm UTC) on July 14.

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As Comet K2’s path continues into perihelion (its closest approach to the Sun), its behavior may change. It may become more energetic, brighten, or disintegrate as the Sun heats its icy core. Over the next few weeks, you’re sure to get some of his best photos from professionals and amateurs alike, the biggest comets they want to put on an unforgettable show.